Prayers for Hiroshima - Peace Alliance pans Canada's uranium exports


August 7, 2008

Countries calling for Iran to stop its uranium program should be the first to disarm their nuclear weapons.

That was the call from the North Bay Peace Alliance during a poignant “obon” ceremony Wednesday in front of city hall.

Colourful paper lanterns lit during the Japanese ritual honouring ancestral spirits marked the 63rd anniversary of the United States dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 to hasten an end to the Second World War.

Peace alliance organizer Phillip Penna said Canada must end its role as a major exporter of uranium ­ a key ingredient for nuclear fuels and weapons.

“Canada is the Western world’s largest supplier of uranium, and we supply our uranium to the United States primarily . . . Our uranium ends up in their nuclear weapons programs,” he said.

“If we’re serious about the elimination of nuclear weapons . . . you have to deprive the nuclear weapons industries of its oxygen. The oxygen is uranium, and we give it to them.”

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, during a ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park in that city, also urged the next United States president ­ to be chosen in November ­ to abolish nuclear weapons.

More than two dozen adults and children gathered at the North Bay rally, taking turns reading poetry and sharing songs and ideals about a future free of nuclear weapons.

For Penna, the event is a reminder to never let the mistakes of the past happen again.

These types of gestures were seen around the world Wednesday at a time when the international community is threatening more economic sanctions against Iran if it doesn’t stop its nuclear program.

Six countries, including Britain, America and China, are demanding that Iran end its uranium enrichment program, fearing it would allow the country to produce weapons-grade material.

About 45,000 people attended the ceremony in Hiroshima to mark the 63rd anniversary when the city was obliterated and more than 140,000 people were killed by the atomic bomb at 8:15 a.m.

Three days later at 11:02 a.m., the U.S. dropped a second bomb on Japan’s port city of Nagasaki, killing another 70,000 people.

There were an estimated 244,000 survivors of both blasts, some attending the ceremony in Japan and still battling life-long illness caused by radiation poisoning and severe burns.

There is debate whether the bombings were necessary to end the war with Japan, or if they spared casualties on both sides compared to a frontal assault by the U.S. that would have prolonged the fighting.

Japan surrendered on April 14, 1945.